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Published: August 21st 2016
Sansa- girls love flowers!(Disclaimer: all animals in the photo's are NOT pets, they will be rehabilitated and released back into the wild)
Darwin & Sansa were pets, and had been kept in an extremely shabby little cage.
Definitely another great choice to be part of an amazing organisation to make the world better place, also for our endangered and furry friends. Or any friend of that matter who has been deliberately taken from their mother, been a victim of a boat collision, been mistreated mis-fed by their unlawful 'owners' etc.
I applied to volunteer at Wildtracks, Sartaneja, Belize.
Beautiful lush green surroundings and a huge lake to see stunning sunrises every single day! The start wasn't all happiness; the group of volunteers weren't very open and welcoming to new comers. It felt like Mean Girls meets High School-vibes when I arrived. So far for a 'warm welcome'. Luckily that changed quickly.. After the first few days I got assigned to become the carer of 3 howler monkeys: my dearest Pachuco and the couple Darwin and Sansa. Meaning 4 feeds a day including a food-prep. Feeds consist of fresh browse(branches & leaves) every feed, chopped fruit and milk. Every monkey has their own special character, needs and behavioural 'quirks'. In the beginning they don't know you
Taken with my back to the lake, the main house which includes the nursery, on the left and right the volunteer cabins.
and are cautious, but when they get to know you.., oh boy!! Darwin being a very playful, and in that sense, bity little fellow. Sansa joins in the play later. Loads of hairs lost because of their playful grabbing, pulling and dangling from it! Both in their own way the cutest. Trying to howl, which is still funny and endearing and not close to a guttering loud impressive sound yet. I've learned to understand and communicate in their 'language'. Pachuco is a different story.
Pachuco: was found on the ground next to a trash bin, he had an adult head-he's estimated to be 2,5 yrs old- but with an emaciated body. He was probably an abandoned pet and has been fed rice & beans (while they eat 80%!l(MISSING)eaves and should never be seen on the ground), which nearly killed him. He could barely walk and showed a lot of signs of distress (rocking, biting his knee, foot and suckle his testicle). Since, he has been treated for several parasites, and now he's increasing his social skills, he loves attention and scratches.
With him I wasn't allowed to enter his enclosure, to clean it and feed him like with the other two. Because Pachucho is unpredictable. He doesn't quite understand howler 'rules' and also still suffers from being severely traumatised when found. What was consistent was that he could freak out over milk, share heaps of loud farts and always wanting scratches. And by that I really mean changing poses for an easy reach and no way you could resist to give him his scratches.
Obviously about these monkeys I needed a lot of explaining, checking and asking. The people running the place really want to make sure the monkeys get the best treatment they need
Cas- play time!
photo: by Raphael Bendelac
Cas is an endangered Geoffroy's spider monkey, and he was orphaned when his mother was shot and killed in order for him to be sold in the illegal primate pet trade here in Belize. Being kept in a banana crate under a kitchen table, he was confiscated and is now being rehabilitated for release back into the wild. Normally, Cas would be nursing from his mother until at least three years of age and requires care round the clock.
and deserve. Which includes checking their feaces, keeping an eye on changes in their (eating) behaviour, being conscious about your own health and your behaviour around them; depending on age and stage of their rehab they need an increase or decrease in the amount of human contact. One morning Darwin and Sansa were not coming towards me as usual but sitting in the opposite corner of their enclosure with their backs towards me. I quickly discovered a boa curled up right above my head, after it was removed it was back to monkey business as usual. I also loved to give them treats; a new toy, a new hammock, fresh palm leaves or hibiscus flower treats!
I can go on and on about 'my' monkeys, but besides them there are many more groups of howlers in different stages towards their release. There is a nursery for the baby howlers and spiders. Some needing 24hr care! There is a huge spider monkey enclosure with their own carers. There are manatees, i.e. Ben an 8 yr old male manatee came in with serious injuries from a boat strike - propeller wounds from three different boats scarred his body, and broken ribs
She was abandoned by her first-time mom, and left on her own outside of the pen. Her eyes were completely crusted shut with mud, and she almost completely lost her vision. It is slowly coming back, but she will be visually impaired for the rest of her life.
combined with a collapsed lung left him in pain, immobile, floating on the top of the water. and needed extra tube feeding through his nose. Everyone needed to help to drain his pool, scrub the pool, scrub him, hold him still. But also to have 'Ben-swims', to give him some attention, treats and a little exercise. There is a specific (and terrific!) Mana-team! To take care of them, feed them and keep a close eye on them. To do with moving, swimming, breathing, eating etc. The odds & sodds are all the other animals: wounded, rescued, or for whatever other reason they can't be in the wild. There are deer, peccary, a margay and all kinds of birds.. They also are taken care of by the volunteers (and locals!) in between the set moments you need to be with your assigned animal(s).
I spend a full month at this magical place. Mixed emotions when I had to say goodbye; sad about every animal and their story, but very proud to have been a (tiny)part of all of it, I will remember the smiles (animals' and peeps')! I was lucky to see more of Belize.. Unbelizable as they say! Which
Manatee Ben- eating banana leaves
He came in with serious injuries from a boat strike - propeller wounds from three different boats scarred his body, and broken ribs combined with a collapsed lung left him in pain, immobile, floating on the top of the water.
will be in the next blog.
Fun fact: When released back into the wild, they need to survey their well-being. As the monkey's faces can be hard to see in the canopy, they use recognition based on their genital/anal characteristics, to track the released monkeys. As this is the part of the monkey seen most frequently. 😊 http://www.wildtracksbelize.org "Wildlife conservation includes a broad range of conservation strategies from habitat protection, reducing threats, and raising public awareness, to rehabilitating orphaned, injured or confiscated wildlife and returning them to the wild populations. Wildtracks hosts and manages two wildlife rehabilitation facilities in partnership with the Forest Department of the Government of Belize: Manatee & primate rehabilitation. Wildtracks focusses primarily on three species in Belize; West Indian Manatee, Yucatan Black Howler monkey and Geoffroy's spider monkey.- also be found on Facebook: Wildtracks Belize.
NB. Please, when traveling Belize, report pet monkeys to Belize Forest Department 822-2079 or 822-1524 (or inform Wildtracks).
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